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By Bulbul Singh

14 Apr 11. Even as India issued a Global RFI last year for the purchase of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), scientists here have begun work on the design and development of its own UCAVs.

“The project is being developed by DRDO laboratories based in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Dehradun,” said a DRDO scientist.

Nearly 20 scientists are involved in the UCAV project which is still in preliminary stages of design. The UCAV will have on-board mission computers, data links, fire control radars,IFF and collision avoidance systems.

The UCAV’s will be capable of flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet, would weigh less than 15 tonnes and be capable of launching missiles, bombs and Precision Guided Munitions.

The DRDO laboratories involved in the design and development of the UCAVs will be Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bangalore-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment, Dehradun-based Defence Electronics Application Laboratory and Bangalore-based Gas Turbine Research Establishment.

India already extensively uses UAVs to snoop along its borders with Pakistan and China and to track militants in the North-East and Kashmir. But with Predators and Reapers unleashing precision-targeting in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region with their Hellfire missiles, the Indian military brass has set its heart on acquiring UCAVs.

Indian forces are already using killer UAVs including Harpy and Harop, bought from Israel which act like cruise missiles and self-destruct when hitting enemy targets, usually radars.

However, unlike the killer UAVs, the UCAV will function as air assets, which can be reused and operated from thousands of miles away from the battlefield.

The Indian defence ministry floated an RFI last year in which it invited responses from overseas defence companies including Israel, Europe, Russia and United States regarding technical specifications of their UCAVs. Based on this RFI, t next step would be for the Indian defence ministry to float a global RFP.

“The purchase of UCAVs from the overseas market will not be stopped due to the homegrown UCAV project.” said a defence ministry official.
India is looking for advanced stealthy and high-endurance UCAVs, with precision weapons and satellite data links which also have a good arrested take-off and landing capabilities, with a high service ceiling and the expected range should be 500nm and endurance in all configurations.

The RFI had sought information on Configuration of the UCAV, Single or twin Engine, with Low Radar Cross Section, and Low IR signature and other stealth features. The vendors were also asked to give details of their latest avionics and navigation systems, and provide technical information additionally on Synthetic Aperture Radar, Electro Optical, COMRELAY Enhanced GPWS, ATOL, MAWS ILS and other features including good landing capability with ATOL capability. The Data Link should have both line of sight and SATCOM capability for integration into a Mission Operations Centre.

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